ORONO, Maine — Jack Cosgrove took over as the head football coach at the University of Maine in 1993.
On Tuesday, he couldn’t think of a time during those 22 years when a Black Bear played on offense and defense during the same season.
It could happen when UMaine opens its season Sept. 5 at Boston College.
Senior Cabrinni Goncalves, a linebacker who was UMaine’s second leading tackler with 74 in 2014, is expanding his repertoire.
The 6-foot, 220-pounder exclusively played at tailback Tuesday afternoon during the Black Bears’ second preseason scrimmage on Morse Field at Alfond Stadium.
“The kid’s a football player,” Cosgrove said. “He’s got good football sense, knowledge, instincts. He’s just a kid that loves the game.”
Goncalves rotated in with the other tailbacks and carried the ball eight times for 13 yards against the stingy defense of which he also is a part.
“I’ve got to get better,” he said. “I feel like I’m warming up, getting back into it.”
Goncalves was recruited by UMaine as a running back out of Taunton (Massachusetts) High School, where as a junior in 2009 he rushed for 1,263 yards and 21 touchdowns.
“I always played running back — that was my No. 1 position. But when I came here, they made me play defense,” Goncalves, who is excited about the new opportunity, said.
Goncalves was pressed into service after injuries and attrition thinned the tailback ranks. Sophomore Nigel Beckford is the starter, but last year’s leading rusher Nigel Jones and fellow senior Isaiah Jones were lost to injuries.
Senior Darius Benders is in the mix, but Goncalves provides an element the group, as a whole, lacks.
“We’ve got a depth concern, especially in terms of size, in the backfield,” Cosgrove said.
“Obviously we feel good about Nigel Beckford (5-9, 195 pounds), but after that we’re pretty tiny. We need a bigger back, and he’ll (Goncalves) give us that.”
Goncalves has only been wearing the blue No. 2 practice jersey for four days (the defense wears white), which is a new dynamic for UMaine junior quarterback Dan Collins.
“Normally he’s yelling at you from the other side of the line of scrimmage, and you’re keying him and trying to pick him up,” Collins said.
Collins and sophomore QB Drew Belcher said Goncalves’ work ethic should help facilitate learning the intricacies of the offense.
“He’s done a great job picking up on the playbook and really working hard to make sure he gets the mental part of (playing) running back,” Belcher said.
Goncalves pointed out that many players go both ways in high school, so he doesn’t expect the transition to be too difficult. For the coaches, the challenge is managing his snaps to help keep Goncalves healthy and effective.
UMaine features outstanding depth at linebacker, but Cosgrove expects continued excellence from Goncalves on defense.
“Cabrinni is not being moved to offense as a one-position guy. We’re keeping him (on defense), but we’re also going to get some offensive skills from him,” Cosgrove said.
Concalves admits it is different running the ball against his defensive buddies, because he usually is dishing out hits himself.
“It’s nothing but love,” he said. “It’s fun to see how it is playing against ‘The Black Hole.’”